It has suddenly dawned on me why diets don't work.
Just a few months ago I remember socialising with a group of friends who were talking about their diet and exercise regimes in order to maintain their ideal weight. I felt so fortunate to no longer have to worry about those kind of things because I was finally completely happy with my body and never had to diet because of my yoga practice. But it was a very different story in the past.
For more than 20 years, I suffered with an eating disorder, where every single moment of every single day was preoccupied with the thought of food and exercise. I never believed I would be free of such an all consuming addiction, but yoga changed all that, by helping me to learn to love myself again and find balance in my life.
Since my recovery, I’ve learned to listen to what my body needs, so I eat everything including meat, fish, cheese and eggs. My diet is naturally very healthy as it’s also full of fruit, vegetables and salad with lashings of lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. I also make everything from scratch, buy good quality food and enjoy a glass of fine red wine with my meal.
Having been in balance for years, I presumed I was cured of the negative thought patterns that affected the way I ate, but a deeper understanding of myself was revealed this year.
What came to light was finally being able to understand why I have always been unlucky in love...apparently it's no coincidence. I learned, that if we don't love ourselves, we attract partners who will only hurt us because subconsciously, we don't believe we are worthy of more. But I thought I did love myself? Apparently not enough, as it happened again, but I won’t ever fall into that trap again, as my eyes are open wide now.
Since then, however, I’ve been comfort eating. I thought it was a phase and would pass, but I haven’t been able to control it and have put on weight, which has made me feel horrible about myself and start dieting and over-exercising again. But why should I feel horrible about myself just because I’ve put on a bit of weight? Having not felt like this for years, I realised two things; that I clearly still had issues with low-self esteem and that there were probably a lot of people out there who felt the same way. So I ran the Self-Love workshop, where among other things, I talked about the impact of negative self-talk and how I had gradually changed the way I spoke to myself over the years.
However, last weekend, my friend pointed out how negatively I was speaking about myself in physical terms. I said it was only temporary because I had put on weight, but that was irrelevant. Saying out loud and internally that I felt fat (temporarily or not) was reaffirming that I was not good enough NOW, which made me want to eat more. Hence the vicious cycle that I found myself in.
How many of us think we should lose a few pounds, should look younger, should be better looking, should be taller, shorter, musclier etc. The list of ‘shoulds’ goes on and on. The moment we say to ourselves that we are not physically good enough NOW, for whatever reason, we start treating ourselves badly by craving the things that will make us feel worse.
When we don’t feel good about ourselves, we diet to try to change ourselves. But the moment we tell ourselves we’re not good enough, we want to overeat because we don’t care about ourselves.
Can you see the problem? Our negative self-talk, which instigates a diet, is the very thing that fuels imbalanced eating and the exact reason why diets don’t work.
So the answer is to love and accept ourselves EXACTLY AS WE ARE NOW. No excuses, no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’. As soon as we do that, we lose our unhealthy cravings and our eating finds its natural balance. There are plenty of models and super fit celebs out there, who we might think are 'perfect' and brimming with confidence, but in fact, are incredibly insecure about their looks. The fact is, if we don’t love ourselves on the inside, we will never be happy with how we look on the outside because we are looking at ourselves through poop tinted glasses. What we think and believe is what we perceive and that includes our physical body.
Only when we accept ourselves warts and all and stop trying to be something other than we already are, can we can find balance with our vices and addictions. The more willing we are to look inside to reveal and accept what’s there, exactly as it is, the more we will learn to love ourselves on the outside and ultimately improve all of our relationships.
So ditch diets. Exercise loving yourself instead. You are perfect and beautiful exactly as you are. Find your voice. Be yourself, love yourself. I know I’m doing the best I can.
Part II of the Self-Love Workshop will take place on Sunday 1st October 2017.